2017 Best MBAs: Kyle Brengel, Wharton School

Meet a member of the Poets & Quants Best & Brightest 2017, Kyle Brengel, who describes himself as a “Veteran and father of two who feels most comfortable climbing or skiing in the mountains.” 

Kyle Brengel

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

“Veteran and father of two who feels most comfortable climbing or skiing in the mountains.” 

Age: 34

Hometown: Richmond, VA

Fun fact about yourself: Outside of school activities, I spend the majority of my time with my two boys (3 & 6 years old) and wife.

Undergraduate School and Degree: United States Military Academy (West Point), 2005, BS in Political Science (International Politics)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Army Officer for the 10 years prior to business school.  Served as a rifle platoon leader, executive officer, and air operations officer in the infantry.  Served as a mountain detachment commander, executive officer, liaison, and deputy operations officer in Special Forces (“Green Berets”).

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Deloitte Strategy & Operations, Denver CO

Where will you be working after graduation? McKinsey & Company, Denver CO

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Student Life Fellow – I mentored a group of 18 first year MBA students and helped them integrate into the Wharton community during their first semester. More broadly, the Student Life program helps keep our community vibrant and well-functioning by serving as the linkage between the administration and students.
  • Admissions Fellow – I believe that in many ways the quality and value of a business school is not just defined by today’s students but will continue to be defined by those in the future. I serve as an Admissions Fellow because I want to help recruit and interview the future at Wharton.
  • Venture Fellow – I am leading a Wharton Leadership Venture, along with another second year student (Bree Stern), into the canyons of Southern Utah for 14 of my classmates. This has been a way to impart the leadership lessons I learned as an Army officer to my MBA classmates.  It also provides me an avenue to share my love of the wilderness with others.
  • Co-Director of Admissions, Wharton Veterans Club – During my application process, I received a great deal of support from the Wharton Veterans Club and honestly believe that I might not be here were it not for their investment in me. Along with a fellow Green Beret, Brandon Trauma, I lead the club’s outreach efforts to current military members and veterans who want to apply to Wharton.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I spent most of my first-year participating in the Global Consulting Practicum, a consulting course where I lead a team of Wharton and HEC Paris business students to assist a Harvard-based cancer researcher to set up a cancer research network in West Africa. I am extremely proud of all that the team accomplished in identifying the systematic shortfalls and proposing an organizational design to bring together disparate organizations against a growing public health problem.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Without a doubt, it was and will continue to be successfully leading Special Forces soldiers to achieve audacious national security goals with minimal resources.  The trust and confidence that my men put in me is a badge of honor that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? MGMT 896 (Decision Making in the Leadership Chair).  This is absolutely one of the most amazing classes at Wharton.  Its taught by the Executive Chairman of Estee Lauder and each session is guest lectured by a CEO or board director on the issues faced by the world’s foremost companies.  The biggest insights from this class for me stem from Alex Gorsky’s (CEO of Johnson & Johnson) talk about leading with a values based construct. Credos like J&J’s are common in the military and I was inspired by how Alex implements their credo in decision making at all levels of the company.

Why did you choose this business school? When I made the difficult decision to leave the Army, the only life that I’d known since starting at West Point at age 18, I was seeking an institution with academic excellence, a close-knit community, and the prestige to open doors to great jobs. I found all of these things in spades at Wharton. From my first contact with the Wharton Veterans Club to the engaging classroom discussion to drinks at MBA Pub, I quickly figured out that Wharton was the MBA program for me.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? I was pleasantly surprised just how giving my classmates have been with their time and effort. I showed up to Wharton with tons of international and leadership experience, but almost zero business knowledge. So many of my classmates explained concepts to me and shared their experiences in previous industries and roles.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Reach out to a Wharton affinity club that you have commonality with to speak to someone with a similar background.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Wharton has a reputation for being quantitatively intense, specifically, being a “finance school.”  In many ways this is very true; the Wharton approach to most problems is to look at the data and draw insights.  I do think this myth unfairly ignores the parts of Wharton that specialize in soft skill development, like the Wharton Communication Program and McNulty Leadership Program.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I wish I’d had more confidence in my ability to grasp advanced business concepts in my first year of business school.  I focused too much on the core (accounting, economics, operations, communications, management) in my first year and not starting to think about more advanced topics.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Linan Xiao. Linan and I were on a team working on cancer care in Africa for most of first year.  Her drive, insight, and care for the rest of the team really impressed me.  Throughout the project, Linan drew on her significant healthcare consulting experience both for structure and substance. Her passion for the biomedical space is hard to replicate and after Wharton she’s going to a biotech company.  I will say that this was absolutely the hardest question to answer because I admire so much about so many here at Wharton.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized that I needed a business education to get and succeed in the type of roles that I felt would continue challenge me.”

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…serving overseas somewhere.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? My classmates might hate me for saying this, but get rid of laptops in the classrooms.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to run a large company that positively impacts society and the environment…or serve as President of the United States.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My wife, Brittney. Without her love, support, and flexibility, full time business school with a family would not have been even a possibility.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A friend and confidant who was good to drink beer with, better to work with, and great to adventure with.

Favorite book: Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Favorite movie or television show: Aspen Extreme

Favorite musical performer: Reckless Kelly

Favorite vacation spot: Breckenridge, CO

Hobbies? Skiing, mountaineering, photography, trail running


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